I’ve Only Just Started

I don’t normally stick to New Years’ resolutions. Either, I don’t have the mental fortitude to keep up with them, or they’re too vague and I never really start.

This one just… happened.

I keep a reading log of all the books I read in any given year, to remember the titles of books I should recommend to friends, and to keep track of how many books I read so that next year, I can try to improve it.

I looked over my reading log for 2014, and realised, with a cold, sinking feeling that most of the authors I had read were white, male authors. Of course there was the occasional Haruki Murakami novel, some Virginia Woolf, and a few authors of varying backgrounds, but it wasn’t enough.

I had always held the belief that I didn’t read a book based on the ethnicity of the author, only on the quality of the writing. But I think I unconsciously chose stories I knew I could relate to the most, ones I would be the most comfortable with.

So, I decided that for 2015, I would read more diversely. I would read more books written by people of colour and more books written by women. I wanted to read more books written by LGBITQA people, being a queer woman myself. I want to read about different cultures, I want to read feminist books and essays, I want to read a book that isn’t set in London or Paris or New York for a change.

So I borrowed a reading template from the internet, made a list, and set myself up. I started, as one should always start a challenge like this, with a book of poetry by Maya Angelou. I didn’t purchase the book – it was given to me at Christmas by one of my closest friends. The uncanny timing of this still surprises me.

… of course, I won’t cross white, male authors off my list of to-reads. Why should I? I want more diversity, so nothing should be left out. I still have a ten-hour dramatised version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings waiting for me.

I think a lot of people are quite indifferent to the idea of deliberately reading novels by authors of colour, because it’s fiction. There are blue people, and green people, people with pointed ears and people with eight limbs – why does it matter who we read and why?

But people of colour shouldn’t have to choose between being represented in history, or represented in fiction. Any person of any minority, LGBITQA people, people with disabilities, with mental illnesses, no one should have to choose that.

Particularly when people like that are often misrepresented or left out of history anyway. Most of the books I’ve compiled by now have been banned in their respective countries. They became underground successes, or resurfaced years later to become cornerstones of fiction or non-fiction.

I’ve discovered that it doesn’t matter if I have virtually nothing in common with the author, or the characters, because all the novels I read have a common thread of humanity.

Doing this challenge has made me more compassionate, more empathetic, more self-aware, and certainly more interested in what I read. It’s one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done, and I’ve only just started.

And if anyone else is interested, I have plenty of recommendations.

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Either

I like androgyny. I think it’s beautiful.

I am a woman. I will always be a woman. I will always use feminine pronouns, to the best of my knowledge. I like being a woman.

But to be androgynous empowers me.

Every day, I am informed by my gender. The choices I make, the way I conduct myself in the street, how I react to others.

And every once in a while, I like to be androgynous – to be neither gender. Every once in a while, it’s very nice to leave all those prerequisites behind.

I own all the experiences I had as a woman – positive and negative – but sometimes it’s lovely to be neither.

I never minded if someone called me a boy or a male when I was young. Often times, I didn’t even bother to correct them. Why should I mind?

I’ve had short hair for quite some time now – it happens, people make mistakes. It happens a lot when I go overseas. I suspect it has something to do with the timbre of the Australian accent – or the fact that where I go is often cold and I’m wearing a huge coat, one large enough to hide my chest.

Either way, I never minded. There was one time when I was flying from Australia to somewhere in Europe – a marathon 12,13,14 hour flight, or something of the sort. All the flight attendants called me ‘young man’, ‘sir’ and used male pronouns.

When everyone was disembarking, one of the flight attendants looked at me. He scrutinised me. He looked at me for a whole two minutes, and narrowed his eyes, and tilted his head. I said nothing – I just smiled. It was fantastic. I don’t think he knows, to this day, whether I was a boy or a girl.

The difficult part of this realisation came when I realised I might have to tell people. Which is what I’m doing now – telling people.

My wife said I didn’t have to tell anyone – that I don’t owe anyone an explanation. And maybe I don’t.

But I do want to tell people. A huge part of me is afraid that I won’t be accepted by those around me. But I know the important people will.

And if there’s anyone out there in the world who’s in a similar position to me, who’s questioning any part of themselves – know that I’m with you. Remember that no one defines you but you, on any given day, at any given time.

I’m quite new at this whole androgyny thing – I don’t have a method of binding my chest, and I have no idea how to apply make up in a way that would make me look less feminine. But I want to learn.

I want to buy a vest, or tape, and figure out how to darken my eyebrows and add contours where there shouldn’t be – I want to see how far I can go with this.

This is quite scary for me because it’s the first time I’ve really admitted to myself that this is how I feel – and now I’m admitting it to you. This whole thing is quite emotionally charged for me, but I think I can take that charge and turn it into something wonderful.

It will be an adventure.